Category Archives: LGBTQ Issues

Women Dressed as ‘Handmaids’ to Confront ‘Vicious Theocrat’ Mike Pence in Philadelphia Over His Anti-Choice Agenda

“Pence is one of the most dangerous reactionary figures in modern history. He is a key figure in ushering in a theocratic society right out of the Handmaid’s Tale.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-23-2018

Since President Donald Trump assumed office last year, many women have taken to dressing as handmaids from the TV series and book “The Handmaid’s Tale” to protest Trump’s anti-choice agenda. (Photo: Carlos Lowry/Flickr/cc)

Resisting the Trump-Pence administration’s anti-choice and anti-woman agenda, dozens of woman dressed as handmaids from the novel and TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale” are planning to greet Vice President Mike Pence when he arrives in Philadelphia on Monday for a GOP fundraiser.

The white bonnets and red dresses and capes worn by the protesters will mimic those of handmaids in Hulu’s dramatic series and Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, in which women are forced to give birth to the children of powerful men. Continue reading

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#MidtermsBeforeSCOTUS Takes Off as Democrats Told to ‘Stiffen Their Spines

“Here it is, plain and simple. McConnell set the rule. Now, he and Senate Republicans need to follow it.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-27-2018

Screenshot: ABC News

“Mitch McConnell should follow the Mitch McConnell rule. Let the American people have a say when women’s health and equal rights are on the line.”

As the #MidtermsBeforeSCOTUS hashtag began to take off on Wednesday, that was how Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) responded to the news that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring, a move that gives President Donald Trump the chance to nominate a second ultra-conservative justice and push the high court even further to the right.

The “McConnell rule” Warren cites is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s infamous 2016 declaration that no Supreme Court justice can be confirmed during an election year—a completely fabricated directive that allowed McConnell to steal a high court pick from former President Barack Obama. Continue reading

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‘Take Away Our Poverty, Not Our Children!’: Poor People’s Campaign Caps Off 40 Days of Action

‘We will keep coming back until everyone has housing, voting rights, clean water, peace, and justice!” says Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-23-2018

A portion of the Poor People’s Campaign’s poster for the action on Saturday.

Thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C. on Saturday where the Poor People’s Campaign capped off 40 days of action with a rally and march to further energize its call for a “moral revival” and intention to “move forward together, not one step back.”

Twin banners declaring “Fight Poverty Not the Poor” flanked the stage, where rousing speeches by noted figures including Rev. William Barber, Rev. Jesse Jackson, American Federation of Teachers leader Randi Weingarten, as well as others on the front-lines of the fight for justice—and those who amplify their voices—drew cheers. Continue reading

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Tourists, Beware: Trump Administration Wants Your Social Media Handles Before You Travel

Such scrutiny will affect people coming to the U.S. for work, for business, for tourism, or simply to visit family.

By . Published 4-25-2018 by YES! Magazine

Spring break. It’s a vacation I am getting used to now that I have school-age children. I figure I’ve got 10 good years before my older daughter will start college and spending spring break with me will be the last thing she’ll want to do. We visited Disneyland—along with what felt like a million other people—and I realized the place is really a series of terminally long lines. Standing in those lines gives you an opportunity to listen to languages and accents from all over the world.

It made me appreciate just how tourist-dependent many entertainment attractions in this country are. Continue reading

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#ToxicTwitter: Human Rights Group Says Platform Creates Abusive Environment for Women

“Ensuring an internet free from gender-based violence enhances freedom of expression as it allows women to fully participate in all areas of life.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 3-21-2018

Human rights advocates projected abusive tweets and a message to Twitter founder Jack Dorsey on the company’s headquarters Tuesday night to call attention to Twitter’s inadequate protections for women on the platform. (Photo: Amnesty International)

The human rights group Amnesty International accused Twitter of creating a toxic atmosphere for women on its platform in a report on Wednesday—saying the company fails to enforce clear restrictions banning abuse, and leaves users without a clear sense of its rules and their rights.

The study detailed death threats and rape threats, as well as misogynist, racist, transphobic, and homophobic abuse targeting women. The women who detailed their experiences of abuse included prominent politicians in the UK, journalists, and women’s rights activists. Continue reading

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Rights Advocates Decry ‘Unconscionable’ State Dept Decision to Cut Women’s Rights From Annual Report

“This development is a transparent attempt by the Trump administration to not only de-prioritize reproductive rights, but effectively erase them from the broader conversation on human rights.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-22-2018

At the direction of a top State Department aide, the department’s annual human rights report will be stripped of language relating to women’s reproductive rights and discrimination. (Photo: Marc Nozell/Flickr/cc)

Human rights groups on Thursday denounced the State Department’s plans to re-frame its upcoming global human rights report, paring down its focus on women’s reproductive rights and discrimination—saying the decision is clear evidence that the rights of marginalized groups are insignificant to the Trump administration.

“Reproductive rights are human rights,” said Tarah Demant, Amnesty International USA’s director of gender, sexuality, and identity, in a statement. “This development is a transparent attempt by the Trump administration to not only de-prioritize reproductive rights, but effectively erase them from the broader conversation on human rights. We must not let this attack on basic rights go unchallenged.” Continue reading

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Trump’s “Blatantly Unconstitutional” Transgender Ban Blocked by Federal Judge

Ruling says that administration’s basis for ban does “not appear to be supported by any facts”

Written by Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-30-2017.

Demonstrators protest the Trump administration’s military transgender ban on July 26, 2017. (Photo: Ted Eytan/fickr/cc)

In a development hailed as a “HUGE step forward,” a federal judge on Monday blocked the Trump administration from enforcing its ban on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. armed forces.

“Today’s preliminary injunction is an important step in the ongoing efforts to protect transgender service members from the dangerous and discriminatory policies of Donald Trump and Mike Pence,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director at Human Rights Campaign.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is in response to a legal challenge—Doe v. Trump—brought forth by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) challenging the president’s directive.

Kollar-Kotelly said in her ruling that the plaintiffs’ claims “are highly suggestive of a constitutional violation,” as the presidential directive “punish[es] individuals for failing to adhere to gender stereotypes.” In addition, the ruling stated, “a number of factors—including the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the directives, the unusual circumstances surrounding the president’s announcement of them [on Twitter], the fact that the reasons given for them do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself” are evidence for blocking the ban.

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), which filed an amicus brief in the case, called the ruling “yet another setback for the discrimination administraion.”

“Again and again,” said NCTE executive director Mara Keisling, “our courts have been forced to step in and halt this administration’s unconstitutional and dangerous bigotry. As today’s ruling makes clear, this ban was never about military readiness—just like President Trump’s Muslim bans have never been about national security. This ban is about discrimination, plain and simple. We are grateful that the plaintiffs and thousands of other troops will be able to continue serving without the threat of discharge while this case proceeds.”

The ACLU also filed suit to challenge the directive, with oral arguments in that case set for next month.

Responding to Monday’s ruling, Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, said, “This is the first decision striking down President Trump’s ban, but it won’t be the last.”

“The federal courts are recognizing what everyone already knows to be true: President Trump’s impulsive decision to ban on transgender people from serving in the military service was blatantly unconstitutional,” he continued. “As all of these cases move forward, we will continue to work to ensure that transgender service members are treated with the equal treatment they deserve.”

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Sessions Issues Blatant ‘License to Discriminate’ With ‘Religious Freedom’ Memo

The new DOJ policy directive “will enable systemic, government-wide discrimination that will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ people and their families,” rights groups said

Written by for CommonDreams. Published 10-6-2017.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions intensified the Trump administration’s “all-out assault on LGBTQ people” Friday by issuing a “religious freedom” directive to federal agencies that rights groups said would “categorize LGBTQ Americans as second-class citizens who are not equal under the law.”

Outlined in a 25-page memo (pdf), the directive lays out the White House’s “muscular view of religious freedom” first expressed in an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in May. The memo details 20 “principles of religious liberty” to which all federal agencies will be expected to adhere.

“Under the new policy, a claim of a violation of religious freedom would be enough to override concerns for the civil rights of LGBT people and anti-discrimination protections for women and others,” the Associated Press noted. “The guidelines are so sweeping that experts on religious liberty are calling them a legal powder-keg that could prompt wide-ranging lawsuits against the government.”

In crafting the policy guidance, the Department of Justice (DOJ) consulted extensively with “religious and political groups with a history of opposing protections for LGBT people,” but not “specifically” with any LGBTQ rights organizations, Buzzfeed reported on Friday.

Unsurprisingly, the DOJ’s directive was met with effusive praise by right-wing lawmakers and religious organizations, and fierce condemnation by civil rights groups that argue the Sessions memo constitutes little more than a “license to discriminate” against the LGBTQ community.

Chad Griffin, president of Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights organization, said in a statement on Friday that the Sessions directive is a “blatant attempt to further Donald Trump’s cynical and hateful agenda.”

Justice Department policy as outlined in the new memo “will enable systemic, government-wide discrimination that will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ people and their families,” Griffin concluded. “Donald Trump and [Vice President] Mike Pence have proven they will stop at nothing to target the LGBTQ community and drag our nation backwards. We will fight them every step of the way.”

HRC argued in its press release that the Sessions directive would allow:

  • Federal contractors to deny services to LGBTQ people.
  • “Agencies receiving federal funding, and even their individual staff members, [to] refuse to provide services to LGBTQ children in crisis, or to place adoptive or foster children with a same-sex couple or transgender couple simply because of who they are.”
  • “A Social Security Administration employee [to] refuse to accept or process spousal or survivor benefits paperwork for a surviving same-sex spouse.”

The new DOJ memo comes amid a flurry of policy moves by the Trump administration this week that will disproportionately affect women and the LGBTQ community, including a rollback of the federal birth control mandate and a reversal of government policy that protected transgender workers from discrimination.

In a statement on Friday, Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, argued that the Sessions directive is “yet another mean-spirited attack against the LGBTQ community, people of color, and other minorities.

“Federal agencies, government contractors, and grant recipients should not be permitted to discriminate simply by citing a religious belief for doing so,” Gupta concluded. “We urge the federal courts to reject the radical efforts by this administration to justify discrimination on the basis of religion. We are strengthened as a nation when we work to protect and balance the rights and dignity of all.”

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